Pension Advisory Working Group

In 2011, the General Assembly passed the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (“RIRSA”) to address the public pension fund’s large, unfunded liability. As of 2010 the underfunded liability for the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island (“ERSRI”) was approximately $7 billion, with just a 48.4% combined funded ratio (representing the percent of the retirement system’s actuarial liability that is covered by assets). The RIRSA sought to foster long-term fiscal stability and retirement security in Rhode Island through sweeping changes to the State’s benefits structure.

Among other reforms, RIRSA: (1) Froze pensioner cost-of-living adjustments (“COLAs”) until the collective funded status of ERSRI, State Police Retirement Benefits Trust (“SPRBT”), and Rhode Island Judicial Retirement Fund Trust (“RIJRFT”) reaches 80%; and (2) Replaced participants’ traditional defined-benefit (“DB”) pension plan with a new hybrid system, comprised of a more limited DB plan and a new defined-contribution (“DC”) plan. After 11 years, the combined funded ratio has risen to 60.4% and actuarial projections anticipate the fund will reach 80% by 2031. Article 12 of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, enacted as R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-10.2-11, requires the General Treasurer convene an “advisory working group” to assess the impact of the RIRSA reforms, and proffer “options for consideration” by the General Assembly to “improve the pension programs or address any unintended consequences of the [RIRSA].” R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-10.2-11.

Collectively, the Pension Advisory Working Group met six times on the following dates:

November 2, 2023

November 30, 2023

December 14, 2023

January 17, 2024

January 31, 2024

February 26, 2024

The Working Group consists of the following members:

Ernie Almonte, CPA – President of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns

Eric Atwater, FSA – Partner, Aon PLC

Patrick Crowley – Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO

Michael DiBiase – President and CEO of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council

Thomas Huestis – Senior Managing Director at Public Resources Advisory Group

John P. Maguire – Active Teacher Representative, Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island Board

Alicia Munnell – Director at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. Laura Quinby, Ph.D., Senior Research Economist at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, will serve as Ms. Munnell’s designee

George Nee – President of the AFL-CIO

Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and Economics and Director of Strategic Planning & Institutional Effectiveness at Bryant University

Jonathan Womer – Director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration

You may find the Rhode Island Pension Advisory Working Group brief here and the final report prepared by the group here.